Citing their financial difficulties in a note, she and her companion, Annie Pécher, both committed suicide by an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol on 29 March 1985. In their suicide note, Decker and Pécher stated they had not given up their faith and wished to be buried together after a church funeral. They were buried together in Cheremont Cemetery in Wavre, Walloon Brabant, the town where they died. The inscription on their tombstone reads "I saw her soul fly across the clouds", a line from Deckers' song "Sister Smile is dead".
Jeanine Deckers was born Jeanne Paule Deckers in Laeken in 1933, the daughter of a patisserie shop owner, and was educated in a Catholic school in Brussels. She was a keen Girl Guide who bought her first guitar to play at Guide evening events. Though she was thinking about becoming a nun even as a young woman, she trained and then worked as a teacher. In September 1959 she entered the Missionary Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Fichermont, headquartered in the city of Waterloo, where she took the name Sister Luc-Gabrielle.
In their suicide note, Jeanine Deckers aka Sœur Sourire & Annie Pécher stated they had not given up their faith and wished to be buried together after a church funeral. Burial: Cheremont Cemetery, Wavre, Walloon Brabant, Belgium
Jeanine Deckers, better known as Sœur Sourire, was a Belgian singer-songwriter and initially a member of the Dominican Order in Belgium. She acquired world fame in 1963 with the release of the song "Dominique", which topped the U.S. Billboard. In 1963 she was sent by her order to take theology courses at the University of Louvain. She liked the student life, if not her courses. She reconnected with a friend from her youth, Annie Pécher, with whom she slowly developed a very close relationship.
While in the convent, Deckers wrote, sang and performed her own songs, which were so well received by her fellow Sisters and by visitors, that her religious superiors encouraged her to record an album, which visitors and retreatants at the convent would be able to purchase.
In 1961, the album was recorded in Brussels at Philips. The single "Dominique" became an international hit, and in 1962 her album sold nearly 2 million copies. Many radio stations in the U.S. played it and other softer hits more often in the wake of the John F. Kennedy assassination. Overnight, the Dominican Sister was an international celebrity, with the stage name of Sœur Sourire (Sister Smile). She gave concerts and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on 5 January 1964. "Dominique" was the first Belgian song to be a number one hit single in the United States.
Deckers found it difficult having to live up her to her publicity as "a true girl scout", always happy and in a good mood. "I was never allowed to be depressed", Deckers remembered in 1979. "The mother superior used to censor my songs and take out any verses I wrote when I was feeling sad."
In 1965, Debbie Reynolds starred in The Singing Nun, a biographical film about Deckers. Deckers reportedly rejected the film as "fiction".
Deckers did not gain much from this international fame, and her second album, Her Joys, Her Songs, did not get much attention and disappeared almost as soon as it was released. Most of her earnings were in fact taken away by Philips, her producer, while the rest automatically went to her religious congregation, which made at least $100,000 in royalties.
Pulled between two worlds and increasingly in disagreement with the Catholic Church, she left the convent in 1966, to pursue a life as a lay Dominican of the order. She later reported that her departure resulted from a personality clash with her superiors, and that she had been forced out of the convent, and did not leave of her own free will. She still considered herself a nun, praying several times daily, and maintaining a simple and chaste lifestyle.
The recording company required her to give up her initial professional names of "Sœur Sourire" and "The Singing Nun". She attempted to continue her musical career under the name "Luc Dominique" and she pursued social work. She moved in with her childhood friend, Anne Pecher.
Deckers released an album entitled I Am Not a Star in Heaven. Her repertoire consisted of religious songs and songs for children. Despite her renewed musical emphasis, Deckers' career failed to prosper. She blamed lack of success of the album on not being able to use the names by which she had become known, saying that "nobody knew who it was." She suffered a nervous breakdown followed by two years of psychotherapy.
Deckers became increasingly critical of Catholic doctrines and eventually became a public advocate for contraception, including release of a single entitled "Glory Be to God for the Golden Pill". It was a commercial failure.
In 1973, Deckers became involved with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Cardinal Suenens requested that she write songs for the movement, and this led to a brief but successful return to the stage, including a visit to Pittsburgh where she sang before several thousand people. Under the name "Sister Smile", she released another album in 1979, which she described as containing "honest, religious songs" and commented that the album would help listeners to "know who I really am."
In the late 1970s, the Belgian government claimed that she owed $63,000 in back taxes. Deckers countered that the royalties from her recording were given to the convent and therefore she was not liable for payment of any personal income taxes. As her former congregation refused to take any responsibility for the debt, claiming both that they no longer had any responsibility for her and that they did not have the funds, Deckers ran into heavy financial problems. In 1982, she tried, once again as Sœur Sourire, to score a hit with a disco synthesizer version of "Dominique", but this last attempt to resume her singing career failed. In addition to the other financial worries, an autism centre for children started by Annie Pécher had to close its doors for financial reasons in 1982. After this Decker tried to make a living by giving lessons in music and religion.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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